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Police: Gunbattle in Kashmir Ends; 2 Suspected Rebels Killed

Indian soldiers block a road near the site of a gun battle at Arwani, 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Dec. 8, 2016.

A 42-hour gunbattle ended in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday after two suspected rebels were killed in the fighting, which triggered massive anti-India protests in the disputed region.

A police officer said soldiers recovered the bodies of the two suspected militants from the debris of a destroyed house in southern Arwani village.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy, said both of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and authorities were conducting DNA tests to ascertain their identities.

The officer said they recovered three weapons from the site.

Villagers said the house was razed to the ground as soldiers blew it up with explosives.

Police and soldiers had cordoned off Arwani on Tuesday evening, triggering a gunbattle with trapped militants in the village.

On Thursday, a young man was killed and dozens of others were injured when government forces fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas to disperse rock-throwing protesters who tried to help the trapped rebels escape.

Police said the man died after being hit by a stray bullet.

Massive protests against Indian rule again erupted in Arwani and neighboring villages on Friday as thousands of Kashmiris chanted pro-militant and pro-freedom slogans.

Mobile and internet services in some areas of southern Kashmir remained suspended for a second day as authorities sought to stop activists from mobilizing anti-India protesters.

Kashmir is experiencing its largest protests against Indian rule in recent years.

At least 90 civilians and two policemen have been killed and thousands injured in the protests. Hundreds of the injured have been blinded and maimed, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets at rock-throwing protesters. Curfews, communication blackouts, crackdowns and separatist-sponsored strikes have largely paralyzed daily life.

India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for either independence or a merger with Pakistan. Since then, more than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.